You've booked a photo shoot with your horse, now what?

In this guide, we'll go over some things that you can do both before your photo session and during to ensure beautiful photos and a great experience.

A grey irish sport horse and her owner pose from the ground. Captured by HLJ Images at White Fox Manor in Olathe, KS.
Tiffany and Gandalf rocking a casual, moody style outfit. Captured by Haley Johnson, HLJ Images at Seven Oaks Ranch.
Laura's goofy paint horse gelding reaching for a snack during their photo shoot at Seven Oaks Ranch with HLJ Images.

Preparing Your Horse

Some horses are naturals in front of the camera, but some take a little preparation! From grooming to getting the zoomies out, there are a lot of things that can make all the difference when it comes time to pose for the camera. With so many things to think about, I've created a checklist here that will help give you a place to start.

Preparing Yourself

Whether you plan to be in the photos with your horse or not, there are still some things to keep in mind going into your photo session with your horse. In this guide we'll discuss outfits and style choices, posing with your horse, and planning for wall-worthy photographs that you will cherish forever.

Now Have a Plan B, C, & D

If you've been around horses for more than five minutes, you know that things don't always go to plan! Being ready to adapt to circumstances like weather, distractions, or surprise messes can help ensure that we will get some great photos, no matter the circumstance!

Getting Your Horse Ready for a Photoshoot

I've found that most horses do not mind the camera and the noise the shutter makes, but some require a little preparation to be able to relax and "pose" when it comes time for pictures. Some things you can do to help your horse prepare don't actually involve a camera at all! Leading up to your session, think about some places that would make a nice backdrop for your pictures. They don't have to be big beautiful fields- a nice tree or fence with a distraction free background can be all that you need. This photo was taken inside of Apache's pasture in a little grove of trees that he likes to hang out in when it gets hot. Using a spot that your horse is already familiar with can take some of the stress out of the day when you know they won't be worried about being in an unfamiliar place.

Apache, a bay tobiano paint horse, looks curiously towards the camera amongst the tree trunks at Northridge Farm.

Other Ways to Prepare Your Horse for Picture Day

Groom Early

If your horse needs to be clipped, do it a few days early (or two weeks if body clipping) so that the hair will have had time to smooth out. If you prefer to keep their whiskers, you can trim the excessively long hair under their jaws, on their ears, and on their legs to tidy up their silhouette.

As you approach the day of your session, have a plan to give your horse a bath early. Wet horses are going to look wet in photos, so make sure you bathe early enough in the day or the day before so that all you need to do is a little brushing and combing the day of your session.

Act Like It's A Show

If your horse normally has a lot of energy and needs to be worked before they can stand still, plan to ride, turn them out (preferably in a sheet/blanket), or lunge with plenty of time to touch up grooming after. This might mean you need to recruit a friend or family member to get your horse ready for you while you get dressed, or maybe you just plan on spending some extra time at the barn (I know, we horse folk HATE that ;)). For my own horse, I like to spend lots of time hand walking before I ask him to relax in a busy environment. This is an easy way to get him focused without getting either of us dirty or sweaty.

Get His/Her Attention

While distracted horses often still take beautiful photos, it's nice to have some tools in your toolbox to get your horse to focus where you want. Whether that means having some crinkly peppermint wrappers handy, a friend to do jumping jacks behind the camera, or even a horse friend that can stand nearby for emotional support and to provide a place to look can all be easy ways to encourage your horse to look where we like them to. I often bring fun objects, noisemakers, and even have an app on my phone that makes horse noises to help get ears up.

Finishing Touches

Braids and hoof polish can go a long way when creating polished, classic photos that will look great on your wall. If planning to braid, practice several times before your session so that you know how long it will take and how to make sure your braids look beautiful. If adding color to your braids, think about using neutral colors or coordinating with your outfit.

If your horse has any small scratches or spots you want to hide, talk to your photographer. There are chalks and other ways to cover blemishes, and your photographer can pose the horse to hide those problem spots.

Don't Forget Tack!

Choosing your horse's outfit early can help take some guesswork out of your session. Plan whether you will be using your horse's halter, bridle, saddle, etc. so that you have plenty of time to make sure your tack is clean and well adjusted. When in doubt, I love to see a horse presented in either a bridle or plain leather halter with a leather or black lead rope.

A matchy-matchy LeMieux themed portrait session photographed by HLJ Images at Northridge Farm in Kansas City MO.

Getting Yourself Ready for Photos with Your Horse

As if there wasn't already enough to think about, now it's time to focus on YOU! If you plan to be in the photos with your horse, choosing your outfit(s) early will help take a little bit of stress out of the day. To choose an outfit, I like to tell clients to think about what their own style is as well as the style of their home decor. If you have a bright and colorful home, think about what will look great on your walls. If you prefer a little more classic look, think about picking something timeless that you will enjoy looking at for years to come.

A dreamy grey horse and rider photographed in the summer field of  Northridge Farm in Kansas City, MO by HLJ Images.
A bold and colorful family portrait with an Appaloosa and heeler showing off rust, blue, and cream color palette.

Consider Color

Neutral colors like white, cream, greys, and blacks always look good, but a little (or big) pop of color can be a fun way to complement your horse's color and your own style! When coordinating colors with multiple subjects, I like to think about having a "base" neutral and then adding 1-2 color options that go well together, like blue and orange.

A bay paint horse and owner pose in their Holden, MO portrait session captured by HLJ Images.

Be Yourself

If you like wearing fun hair pieces and dressy tops, do it! Photoshoots are an amazing opportunity to pull out a favorite outfit and wear something you love yourself in. I love to curl my hair and wear flowy dresses, but 90% of the time I'm in jeans and a quarter zip. Photos are a great excuse to wear your "fun" clothes to the barn!

This high school senior did pictures with her horse in a prom dress in Bucyrus, KS by a sparkling pond at sunset.

Have Fun

Have a prom dress that you will probably never wear again? Want to break out that cute hat that you got last summer? Doing a session with several outfit changes is a fun opportunity to wear those things you've been waiting to pull out of your closet! For dresses especially, I've found that loose, flowy dresses or ones with a side slit can look absolutely magical on a horse.

Laura rocked an ethereal hand-crafted flower crown that complemented her blue eyes, blonde hair, and chestnut horse.

Details, Details!

Hair, makeup, shoes, etc. are all a fun way to add that little extra "pop" to your photos, but they don't have to be stressful. If in doubt, choose a hair style that can stand up to some wind and horse snorts, and whatever makeup you would normally wear. As far as shoes... from a safety standpoint, closed toed and low heels are preferred, but often clients will switch out or go barefoot when they are on their horse's back.

A family photo with horses taken in the fall by HLJ Images in Smithville, MO.

It's Picture Day!

What to expect the day of your photo session with your horse

It's Picture Day!

What to expect the day of your photo session with your horse

Arrive Early

Work backwards from the start of your photo session time to make sure you are dressed and your horse is fully groomed, settled, and ready to be a star. If your horse has been in a stall, they might appreciate getting fed some hay or grain so that they aren't "hangry" for pictures.

As your photographer, I often arrive early to scout out locations that will work based on where the sun is at, so if you're ready to go we can get started right away!

Poses and Timing

When planning your poses, I like to do all photos with you on the ground first to make sure there are no sweat/saddle marks. Depending on your horse, I might have you start by walking and posing in motion, or we might get right into some fun standing poses to keep your horse's attention. If there are specific shots you'd like to capture, like a silhouette at sunset, we will work backwards from sunrise/sunset to make sure we don't miss those golden moments.

Be Ready to Laugh

Photos with your horse can be whatever you make them. If your horse is being a little goofy and not wanting to stand still, that's okay! We'll work with whatever we've got and love your horse the whole time. Having a plan and knowing that we might need to adjust will help keep our session fun. I always make sure we allow a little bit of time to get comfortable and change things up, because horses are horses!

Don't Forget Treats

Our horses put up with all kinds of nonsense from us, so remember to thank them for participating. Let's be real, they will have no idea why we want them to stand there with their ears up, so making pictures a fun and rewarding experience for the horse will make everyone's lives easier. Keep expectations low from your horse- we're just happy they're here! The more your horse feels that picture day is a fun, low stress experience, the better the photos will be.

More Helpful Links

Join my mailing list

Want to stay in the loop?

I would love to hear from you! By submitting your email, you will be added to my contact list to occasionally receive newsletters, updates, and information on photography galleries and discounts. If you would like to just say "Hi" without being added to my email list, just say so in your message!

* indicates required